PASCAGOULA - Two newly elected officials on the Jackson County Board of Supervisors pushed Monday morning to give the public more chance to participate in board meetings and for an explanation of how the county is now tied financially into the Singing River Health System financial crisis.
Supervisors Ken Taylor and Randy Bosarge brought up issues that involved more transparency and audience participation in board meetings, but were voted down by three supervisors who returned to the board -- Barry Cumbest, Melton Harris and Troy Ross.
Taylor asked that public comment be moved up on the agenda each week so that the public could comment on matters before the board votes on them.
"Citizens can't voice their comment until all the votes are taken," Taylor said.
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But the board's new president Melton Harris, running the meeting, said he strongly opposed the proposal.
"Our meeting is not to be swayed by public comment," Harris said. He said it would bog down meetings.
"But we need to hear from the people," Bosarge said, "if it takes two hours or six hours."
Taylor said it wouldn't bog down the meeting any more earlier than later and that "public input is critical and the public has a right to comment on any item before we vote on it."
Harris said, they "have the right to call their supervisor before the meeting if they have any questions."
Taylor brought up the issue of how the last Board of Supervisors last month tied the county into the financial crisis of the county hospital system, pledging $13.6 million over eight years to support indigent care and prevent default on the hospital's bond issues by supporting SRHS.
He asked for a public meeting so that he and Bosarge could get caught up on the issue and know where the county stands.
Harris said "copies of the documents are available.
"It's been in the paper," Harris said. "You can read it there."
There would be no public meeting scheduled to discuss that, other supervisors concurred.
"I don't see the need for it," Cumbest said.
Taylor replied, "So we're going to have to play catch up?"
There was no response.
Bosarge said he'd like to see more transparency in board meetings even to the point of videotaping meetings.